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RV-3B Dave's in Colorado

David Paule

Well Known Member
The shop is ready. I'll be building this RV-3B in my garage, a smallish two-car garage attached to my older tract home in a cheap part of town. The kit's boxes haven't arrived yet, so at this stage all I'm doing is reporting that the shop is ready.

The empennage jig is from Rod Woodard, in Loveland, CO. It was originally made by Walt Ellwood, I think, and disassembled, fits in my pickup truck. It's quite stiff and is one worry crossed off the list - thanks, Rod!.

I made three new work tables for this project. The design is considerably easier to built than the EAA table, and so far I've made seven of these. They're good. For these three, I used up some surplus plywood to make the drawers, since I don't have floor space for a roll-away tool cabinet.

The tables are white melamine-faced particle board that was previously used for a friend's aluminum motorglider project. They've put one airplane in the air, and I'm counting on them to do another. The smooth white surface is easier to use and to clean than particle board or plywood.

In the first photo, we're looking south. The windows were added in anticipation of this project. They are shaded by the deciduous tree that shades the patio. In the summer it doesn't get too hot, and in the winter a lot of light comes in.


The obscure machine in the right corner is a large belt/disc sander. It might be too big; we'll see. It's setting on a crate that holds the original engine to my Cessna Skywagon.

In the next photo you can see the underside of the garage roof. I had it foamed. The vendor sprayed about 6" of insulating foam up there, for a tight, leak-proof, insulated ceiling. Yes, it's got that special fireproof paint, too.

The walls are well-insulated with cotton batting and then dry-walled. The contractor ran electricity around the garage at the right height so the outlets would be above the work tables and below the windows. And of course, the garage door is insulated, too.

The garage stays between about 40 deg. and 80 deg. with no cooling or heating. I have electric radiant heaters above on thermostats, with about 12 kw heat output (40,000 btu/hr if you prefer these units). For cooling, I get cooled air from the house if necessary. The house has a powerful swamp cooler on a thermostat. It's an excellent way to do it if your climate is dry enough.


Real briefly, I want to mention Dave Dooley, who gave me the work table tops and a plethora of hand tools; Rod Woodard, who gave me the empennage jig; Paul Gassaway, who gave me the drill press 35 years ago; Dan Pierce, who converted the garage into a shop; and Leo Kallan, who gave me the sander. While I'm at it, DR, who hosts this site (have you donated yet this year?); and Paul and Louise, who got me thinking about the RV-3 in the first place. Friends all, and some of them I haven't even met yet.

Thanks, everyone!

Alternate hosting here and here.

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Congrats on starting your build!

I'm excited that there will be a 3B build going on in Boulder! I will definitely be watching your progress and perhaps asking if I can stop by once your get going. I would love to build a 3 too, someday.. we'll see if that works out. For now it's back to work on the 10.:)
thought you got your boxes!

David, I saw your post and I thought you had received your kit! I was excited for you, but I guess I wiull have to hold the excitement for a bit longer.

Your shop looks great. Everything so neet and in it's place. Pretty much the opposite of mine! Have fun and I wil have to come by sometime and check out your kit when you finally get it.
It Finally Came

There was a five week delay, but now the boxes are here.

Here's Partain's truck pulling on to my ramp yesterday afternoon, with me talking to the driver:


With the trailer opened up, we could see that he was delivering two RV-8 quickbuild fuselages and at least one set of quickbuild wings to someone. Nonetheless, ignoring the urge to take one of them instead, we started unloading crates and boxes from the trailer.

And with all the boxes in the hangar, here's Mike Cobb, of Partain, on the left, me in the center and Dave Dooley on the right. It's starting to sink in that this ain't a quickbuilt kit.

All the boxes and crates arrived in excellent condition.


Naturally, I couldn't wait to see what was inside the boxes. Turns out that there's a great deal of paper.


We dug and dug, and finally started coming up with some parts. Although I had opened all the boxes, I started inventorying them with the empennage kit.

I was able to spend some time out there today, too. As of today, the empennage kit is inventoried and almost all of the wing kit is inventoried. I would have finished the wing - finished inventorying it, that is - but I realized that if I opened up the leading edge skins and pulled out the stuff at the very bottom of the crate, it would never fit in there again. So I'm taking about three or four pieces on faith.

Initial impressions:

1. The packing is excellent, but it's clearly intended to survive the drive and is not convenient for storage. For example, all the pieces are labeled, but they're wrapped in groups of parts in paper, which isn't labeled. For storage, something needs to be done that both protects the parts and lets you know what's in the packages. When I repacked the parts, I tried to write their part numbers on the white wrapping paper.

2. Remember this is the RV-3, and even though it's the -3B, it's still somewhat of an orphan. Most of the steel parts are bare steel. Beautifully welded, though, I must say. A few have been powder-coated.

3. Most of the hardware is packed in paper bags and labeled something like "bag 367." A lucky few are in plastic bags. The packing list shows what's supposed to be inside, but you can't see the pieces and often a number of different parts are mixed. Since the plans call out the parts by part number and not bag number, you pretty much need to remove the parts from the bags and sort them by part number into your own containers.

4. The lids of the boxes is attached by staples. The lids are easy to remove. They are not easy to replace. The staples are annoying to remove. Screws would have been better, even at extra cost.

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Dave, finally it is there. Now the fun begins! Have fun and if you need a hand, let me know. I can always find time to build on a plane!!
You're going to have fun!

I actually miss building (but like having some actual free time)! Enjoy the process. The only thing greater than building an RV-3B is flying one! (I also miss our little one. Hope she's out of the paint shop soon.) :(
Y'all are welcome to come up to Boulder sometime once I get going and lend a hand. I'd sure hate to think of someone having to suffer through withdrawal.

And I know that there's many of us eager to see Junior with its paint on. The saying applies: "Good, fast, cheap - pick any two." Since Junior's paint job seems slow, I expect you're at least getting "good."

Inventory is Complete

And the truck is full of white packing paper.

None of the welded parts were powder-coated.

Only one formed part was poorly formed and there was no other damage. The packaging and shipping were excellent, with the caveats noted earlier.

There were a few small parts missing, nothing worth mentioning or getting excited over.

The serial-numbered center-section bulkhead assembly, F-303, is indeed serial-numbered. The serial number is engraved on the parts, which I'm not comfortable with. It is wholly unassembled, something that wasn't entirely clear.

There were a number of parts in the fuselage kit that had F-4xx part numbers (remember, this is an RV-3B, not a -4) that didn't match the study plans. I have not checked these against the plans that came with the kit to see if the real plans are current for the actual parts being shipped.

The fuselage inventory sheets were not particularly clear, with many factory cross-outs and extraneous lines.

I was surprised that the entire tailwheel assembly, from the mount to the wheel, was included. While the mount needed to be, I'd thought that the tailspring and tailwheel assembly itself would be with the finish kit, which I don't have.

The various options and accessories which I'd ordered were packed with the major kits as I'd requested. For example, some riveting tape and the two practice kits were in with the empennage kit. Van's did good there.

Slow Start

Some tail parts are home and are getting worked on. Unfortunately one of the parts which got rejected, in this case due to a defect at the mill, is one of the elevator spar caps. While I'm waiting for a replacement, I started the hinges and the vertical stabilizer spar.

As noted in the RV-3 Plans Clarifications thread, the VS-307 piece needs considerable trimming to fit. But there's ample material for that.

Unlike the rear spar channel for the horizontal stabilizer, the one for the vertical stabilizer is correctly formed. The two channels for the horizontal stabilizer are slightly wider at the root and slightly narrower at the tip than specified on the plans, just enough to throw off the plans dimensions for trimming the cap that I'm waiting for.

The RV-3B is a lot different than the pre-punched kits.

The welded steel parts came bare. I deburred them, did some trimming to the plans - yes, checking first for potential conflicts - and then primed them. They all need more cutting or drilling before assembly. The local powder-coater said it's better to prime them with rattle-can primer than powder-coat them if I'm going to eventually powder-coat them later after further work.

Some Horizontal Stabilizer Progress

The frame of the horizontal stabilizer is finally done. No major surprises, and a lot of education. The skin is next and although they are are out of the box and in the shop, I didn't manage to get them in the picture.


In fact, I'm not sure they'll even fit in the jig without trimming. Part of the job.

By the way, the tooling that you can see in the forward inboard ribs, sticking out where it will interfere with the leading edge of the skin, has been trimmed to clear. No worries there.

It's worth mentioning that although the ribs and channels come pre-bent, nothing in the stabilizer comes pre-drilled. The hinges, for example, come as a piece of aluminum angle, undrilled, uncut and unmarked. It's an RV-3B.

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Dave,,, good luck on this build. When you line up at the end of the runway, feed in the throttle, and lift off, it will be the biggest thrill of your life, and the pride of saying, " I built it" is beyond belief. I,m just over the hill in Granby, so if you have any questions, shoot me a PM....Dave

Now that the skins are all drilled to the horizontal stabilizer, I went and rechecked their alignment. Yeah, I know... I should have either done that earlier or not at all, right? Anyway, what I found was that nothing seemed anywhere close to true. It was so bad that I resolved to take care of it now before dimpling the frame and the skin. First, I added up the parts prices from Van's in case I had to toss it all out and start anew. It was more than $400, which got my attention.

First thing was the hinge alignment. That's was the only place that I knew was good so I started with that. The hinge stand-offs were accurate to their line on the base of the jig. Then I went to the taut wire at the top of the jig (and don't you just love it when someone lets their spell-checker accept the word "taught" for the word taut? - My taut wire seems resistant to education, sad to say) and hang a plumb bob down to the line. Some adjustment was required. I tweaked this and that until the plumb bob was, well, plumb.

Next up, I relocated the 1/4-20 threaded rods that hold the end ribs. The final bit of realignment was to adjust the holder for the threaded rod which keeps the inboard forward ribs in the correct pitch position and the right position inboard/outboard. Tweaking the ribs to the right position in/out was the hardest part here.

Two things left to do. The first was easy - I went and got a fast-drying goop similar to Bondo and put a blob on each of the feet of the jig, anchoring it to the floor, so I won't move it by leaning against it like I did last time. Oops, didn't mean to mention that.

Finally came the fear part of all this. Would the skins line up again? Would I need oops rivets all over? Or would I need new skins? And if I did need new skins, what about drilling them to the frame?

I hung the skins on the frame, and to my considerable surprise, they lined up. No wrinkles, no agony, they just fit. Clecos went in anywhere I wanted them to. And when I rechecked the alignment with the skins on, they appeared true.

Got lucky there.


I screwed up riveting the skin to the substructure of my horizontal stabilizer. You can see the way it turned out here:


There were two issues. The dimpling on the front spar used a dead-beat hammer and not my trusty two pound ball peen hammer (which makes excellent dimples) and the poor riveting with the gun.

I went down to the airport and looked at a couple of handy RV-4s. After that it was clear that I need to scrap this stabilizer.

A new stabilizer is on order. There were some other issues with this and I expect that the replacement will be acceptable.

The tip, also shown in the picture, is as it came from Van's. It's not attached nor trimmed. See how its contour is different than the surface? Since the tip skin contour is fine (the tip rib matches the layout in the plans and the skin matches the tip rib) the error is in the tip. FYI.

I marked my skins by which side of the shop they belonged to, when on the substructure in the jig. We're looking at the north side of the jig, and the east side of the stabilizer (NE). It was easier to deal with that than trying to remember which was right or left or top or bottom. The RV-3B horizontal stabilizer is almost symmetric. Except for the orientation of the splice plate, it is symmetric.

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Hang in there!

I'm having flashbacks to when I decided to toss my first HS. The second one should be much nicer in half the time so dont sweat it. You'll be glad to have this spare to practice on when it comes time to paint.
Thanks! -- I sure appreciate the kindness.

Hadn't thought about the painting benefits. Great! I always like to have a crash test dummy on hand before trying something new.

We got lucky on our tail Dave - it was a "quick build"! (The first owner of our kit had built four RV's previously, so his quality was excellent).

On the tips, I hate to tell you this, but they don't get much better than that. You're going to become expert at fiberglassing.....

Periodically, I get tempted to buy a partially-completed kit. There's on in the Classifieds today, as a matter of fact, that would save me two to three years. But I'd like the privilege of building it myself. For me, the building is - at least right now - slightly more important than flying it, since I've got an excellent airplane already.

That's too bad about the quality of the fiberglass parts. I was hoping for better. Good thing I've got composite experience. It came from owning, sailing and tweaking a Corsair F-27 trimaran sailboat. That thing was the best handling vehicle I've ever operated.

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New Horizontal Stabilizer Spar

The new spar for the horizontal stabilizer is complete. Van's had shipped the replacement parts quickly but I had a series of non-RV-related things occupying my time so it's been slow. The new hinges are on. I'm reusing the center hinge and it's lined up and drilled but not yet bolted on.

I took the scrapped stabilizer to an EAA tech counselor who acknowledged that it was rough but didn't seem too dismayed by it. We talked about ways to do better next time.

The ribs are on my work table right this minute but so far I haven't worked on them.

2nd Horizontal Stabilizer Coming Along

At this point it's mostly just waiting for a friend to drop by to finish riveting. We have one side of the front spar riveted but only part of the other.


The tip of the skin is being held up for clearance so that my friend can get in and buck the front spar rivets.

While waiting, I deburred the main ribs for the wings and straightened their flanges. An RV-3B only has 24 of these and that went quickly.

Then I started building the rear spar of the vertical stabilizer. I got farther than the photo shows. The hinges are located and drilled too.


And I brought home most of the elevators and rudder, except for the skins.

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Horizontal Stabilizer Finished

...Except for the tips, that is.

I put it under the window in the sun to relax for a while. This is the second one, remember, since I scrapped the first (it's in the rafters now).


Incidentally, the first took 201 hours to build and this took 104 hours. This one's a keeper.

After cleaning the shop I continued work on the rear spar of the vertical stabilizer, deburring the holes and dimpling the channel and countersinking the doubler. It's only the bottom 10" of holes that get this treatment, since that's where the spar rests against the last fuselage bulkhead.

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I'm having flashbacks to when I decided to toss my first HS. The second one should be much nicer in half the time so dont sweat it. You'll be glad to have this spare to practice on when it comes time to paint.

Rob, you were bang on with the time and quality estimates.

The vertical stabilizer's rear spar is riveted together.


The only things to note are that the rivet sizes suggested in the plans are just that - suggestions. In most cases I was able to use one size shorter, but for the bottom hinge I needed one size longer.

Also, it was worth getting the aft fuselage bulkhead from the fuselage kit before shaping the bottom contour of the spar. If you look at other builder's photos, you'll note some variation there. Having the bulkhead ensured that this would fit.

The tailspring mount attaches to the bottom hinge lower piece at the outboard holes, so these are left undrilled for now. They'll get drilled on assembly to the fuselage.

Before shutting down for the night last night, I drilled the rear spar and the ribs for the rib locations and did the same for the front spar and the top rib. The frame is setting on my table now. The lower main rib and the front spar are still undrilled. I need to confirm the geometry first.

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Vertical Stabilizer Complete

This one was fun. In my opinion it should be done before the horizontal stabilizer - it's cheaper and simpler.


Dave Dooley helped me rivet the forward spar to the skin and I did the skin to the ribs during the presidential debates last night. Today I finished that and did the skin to the rear spar.

Here's something that might be worth considering. The skin and the flanges are .032. I used the substructure dimple dies from Cleaveland for the underneath parts. I used the rivets that the plans suggest, AN426AD3-3.5 and it was hard to get these consistent. It turns out that the standard rivet measuring tool measures .139, while the rivet spec on Van's site says the the minimum diameter of a shop head should be .122 inches.

I got a piece of scrap and drilled a .125 hole. This gave us a minimum "go" gauge. We used the standard rivet gauge as a maximum "no go" tool. We made sure that none of the rivets would fit in my homemade gauge, and that they would all fit in the standard one.

This gave us shop heads which were within the .038 to .050 high specification. I used a 4" digital caliper from Harbor Freight to measure these.

Here's the riveting spec: http://vansaircraft.com/public/Specs.htm

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You're in the groove now, Dave. The parts look great.

I would have screwed up the first attempt also, building from a pre punched kit has spoiled me. I look at some of the pre bent, pre punched parts with the 8 kit and just wonder at the time it would have taken to make them.

But that's how it was done 25 years ago. The success of Van's airplane company was in the great original design and then focusing on making it easier to build.

It is also a credit that they still sell and support the 3B. For sure there is total satisfaction in doing what you're doing - it makes me think I should have kept the 7 and built the 3B - and won a lottery to boot.:)
Moving Along

I disassembled the empennage jig today. That thing has been wonderful. It's been very solid and adaptable and worked for both the horizontal and the vertical stabilizers.


The yellow piece closest to us is the main horizontal member. The triangular ends make a fork that fits around the wood which you can see on the yellow vertical stands behind it. The wood pieces face each other in the photo.

Then there are three large bolts which tie the vertical pieces to the horizontal piece. You can see the holes in the nearest vertical post.

The blue beam, a box made of 1 X wood, screws to the top of the vertical posts. The box is relatively large and provides huge stiffness.

Finally, the feet are 1/2" bolts through the ends of the vertical stands at the widest parts. These are individually adjustable. I used a quick-drying body filler to secure these to the floor so that I couldn't push the jig around. A chisel removed the body filler.

I'll sort of miss it. It was a good tool. It's made four or five sets of stabilizers so far and is in good enough shape to make several more. But it goeth back from whence it came.

In the background, nestled quietly in the workbench, you can see the skins for the rudder and elevators. Other parts are on other worktables. The focus has already shifted.

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And A Rudder

The rudder's built. It was relatively straight-forward, except as noted in the RV-3 section, in the "Plans Clarifications" thread.

Here's a trial fit-up with the vertical stabilizer on the bench. At this point the leading edge of the rudder has been formed but not drilled nor riveted. I remembered the strips on the bottom to attach the fiberglass rudder bottom. These are visible at the left.


After some tweaking, I riveted it up.


I still need to do a final adjustment to the bearings but this is about it. You can probably see that I used gray SEM primer for the spar and ribs but yellow zinc chromate for the skin. I think that the zinc chromate probably gives some additional corrosion protection, and wanted to try it out.

Incidentally, those thin jam nuts on the rod-end bearings aren't to prevent it from turning. They carry flight loads (axial and bending), and should not be overlooked.

In the bottom photo, you can see some regular marks on the rudder skin. Look carefully and you'll realize that they are reflections from the drill board behind the rudder.

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A couple things have been going on lately. First, I worked on the right elevator and decided that actually I prefer to replace it. The crux issue is that I overbent the trailing edge and can't open it up. There were some minor issues besides that, but this is the big one.

It happened during a brief period when something stressful was occurring and I went out to the shop to work on the plane to relax. Bad idea. As a friend pointed out later, I should have done a few push-ups instead. Scratch one elevator.

Overlapping this, rockwoodrv9 was getting his engines. Plural in this case, since one of them is for me. I don't have it yet. We're planning on getting together next week to make the transfer. Here's both engines in his house.


Since all I have thus far is the empennage, wing and fuselage kits, and I'm struggling through the empennage kit (it's great fun but not easy for me), this engine represents a significant increase in the investment. The fact that I won't need the engine for another two years added to the angst.

When the time comes I know I'll have lots of questions about the engine. The two important ones I know of so far are how to convert it to a constant speed prop engine, and how to de-preserve it. We don't need to bother about these yet, though.

So here I am. Still working away and about to start the left elevator. I'll order the parts for the new right elevator when this is about done. No point ordering it until I'm sure I don't need to replace something with the left one too.

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Santa Came Early

In the person of Rockwood Shepard, delivering my new engine this morning.


The left elevator is chugging along, slowly but fun so far. Here are the stiffeners


And the root end of the framework.


The sharp-eyed viewer will notice that there's a shear clip between the E-310 stiffener at the rib, to the trim tab mounting spar. This is a modification, intended to stiffen up that joint a bit. According to the plans, the rear spar is only attached to the inboard rib by the .016 skin.

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LH Elevator Slowly Making Progress

And right now, the E-310 stiffener has been pro-sealed and riveted to the skin. The skin's drilled and dimpled, ditto the frame, and the elevator is back in its jig while the pro-seal is fully curing.

One thing I didn't expect and should have checked, is that the E-307 rear spar, that the trim tab hangs from, was slightly bent and the flanges weren't bent enough. That all took a little bit of tweaking. It wasn't hard, but the skin wouldn't lie fair until I'd rebent the flanges.

The Wd-415-1 fitting holds the trim tab cable. As designed, the flat part of the fitting stands proud of the bottom surface of the elevator. I'll need to make a hole for it to fit into so it'll be flush. These new parts will hold it. The bottom plate is .063 and so is the angle, which has a couple large lightening holes. The angle's only there because I couldn't bend that thick plate.

And yes, these do complicate the assembly sequence for the elevator.

Almost forgot to mention that I cut off the original flange of the E-310 stiffener and replaced it with a shear clip. Remember, shear clips need a minimum of two fasteners per leg. The original flange didn't let me pick up the elevator horn hole that came pre-drilled. My shear clip did. But I had to dimple the spar and the clip because the necessary second rivet was necessarily under the elevator horn.

See how even tiny changes expand?


The funny-shaped cut-out in the plate allows room for the weld on the WD-415-1.

Incidentally, the pro-sealing I mentioned is so that when I make the cut-out for the cable and the fitting, the stiffener and the skin won't separate. I have to do that before riveting the frame to the skin and these parts.

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Left ELevator Ready For Trim Tab

The riveting of the left elevator went relatively smoothly. Here it is in the jig, in progress.


The warning on the blue tape is to leave open the rivet holes for the trim tab hinge. And I left the green riveting tape on too long and it was hard to remove. Not hard, just slow to remove.

The hinge cut-outs are made, and the hole in the spar for the trim cable as well.

And right now the trim tab is cut out and folded, but I haven't fit the little spar to it yet.

No excuses -- I'm slow. But you've figured that out, right?

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Trim Tab Adventures

The RV-3 trim tab is .016 aluminum sheet, which has the trailing edge prefolded and which merely needs some cutting and bending. This can't be too hard, right? Hah!

The preliminary step is to make a pattern from light cardboard. The initial dimensions are given in the plans. It only took three iterations to get a pattern which would fit the already-built LH elevator.

The first trim tab had a very bad bend in the long flange that the spar attaches to. The bend was so bad that I scrapped this one and ordered a second trim tab blank.

Number two had a better bend but somehow it came out curved. I hate that. As a result, I ordered two more blanks and asked VAF for advice.

Number three went considerably better. It got far enough along to learn that the long bend needed relocating forward a bit. I also noted three issues with the angle that Van's sends for the spar. The angle is pre-bent and trimmed on the long sides.

a) The bend was curved and it was hard to straighten. But since it's .032 instead of that fragile .016, it was at least possible.

b) The top flange of the angle, to which the hinge rivets, is too narrow for the hinge. Can't widen the hinge, but no difficulty, just narrow the hinge a bit.

c) The vertical flange, which rivets to the long bent flange on the trim tab, isn't quite long enough. Or maybe the tab flange needs to be longer.

The result of all this was to make a new pattern and to make trim tab number four. This was my last blank. Fortunately it went acceptably well and is now riveted up. Here it is trial-fitted to the elevator.


Actually, riveting the hinge to the trim tab, while it wasn't hard, resulted in a somewhat wavy hinge line. I was able to bend it more or less straight and get the hinge pin in, but for the hinge to elevator assembly, I used Cleco clamps and a lot of them. I made sure that it was in solid contact before riveting, and that hinge came out pretty good.

After taking this photo, I trimmed the end of the wire and bent it so that I could safety it to the elevator's rear spar at the inboard end.

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LH Elevator On Stabilizer

Finally got this assembly assembled. Seems like it took ages. This is the bottom of the left-hand side.


The slot for the trim cable isn't standard, but came about when I decided to flush-mount the cable retainer.

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Brief Update

Looks like I'll be making a third RH elevator due to a mistake that I made. I simply screwed up and get to do it over. Can't say that I'm happy about it. Please feel free to imagine the smiley of your choice here. Several of the ones on the reply sidebar apply.

Since this is the last of the empennage and I'm waiting on parts, I went to the local welding shop to get a quote on a wing jig. Remember, this is an RV-3B, so the wing jig will take a bit more abuse than if it were one of the pre-punched kits, and therefore needs to be sturdier.

Then I stopped by the hangar to bring some wing parts home.

One thing that's apparent is that I'll need some sort of container or stand or something for storing the completed empennage pieces. I don't have a good place to hang them and the guest room doesn't deserve to have them flopping all over the bed in there like they are now. Suggestions, anyone?

Also, I've been doing some minor shop rearrangement to accommodate the wings. Nothing special, just moving this and that around. The two biggest things are moving the table saw so that I'll have access to it with the wing jig in place, and shifting the band saw to where the table saw was.

I don't have a good place to hang them and the guest room doesn't deserve to have them flopping all over the bed in there like they are now. Suggestions, anyone?

No spare bedroom is too proud to have RV-3 tail feathers on the bed!

I still want to hang my horizontal stab on the wall over the couch in the condo. I grew up in a house that doubled as an art gallery for my family, so why is this any different? :p
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Empennage Complete, Finally!

Well, except for the tips.

Here are the pieces still on the workbench:


Of course, there's another way to look at it:


And here they are in storage in the shop rafters:


I didn't take one of those "Look, Ma! It looks like the back end of an aeroplane!" photos. Instead, I wanted to move right along.

The build log shows so many hours to date that I'd need to put them in exponential notation to record them here. Okay, maybe not. But I'm embarrassed how many hours went into this thing. Of course some of those hours went into:

One scrap horizontal stabilizer,
Two scrap right hand elevators - and they're easy; this is a mystery,
Three scrap trim tabs.

The vertical stabilizer, rudder and left hand elevator were all acceptable the first time.

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Blue Plastic


I'd remove that blue film if you're planning to store them for a while up there. It becomes very difficult to remove and can trap moisture too. Moving blankets or bubble wrap will keep the scratches down, if you're worried about that. Glad to see you're making progress. I'm jealous of your bird already. What's your build site address again?
I will have to come over and go through your scrap pile! Having the first kit done must be a good feeling. I was in Denver Monday and Tues. I was going to come on up, but got stuck in meetings until late yesterday afternoon and had to drive home.

Next time I am in town, I want to see how you are going to set up your wing jigs and how you plan to build them. I like how you have everything put away already. I am working on my garage getting rid of a bunch of **** I don't need or want anymore to make more room.

My FWF kit is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow. That should be fun.
Blue stuff

I just took the blue stuff off my tail kit, been on there since 2006. No problems taking it off, and moisture is not an issue here in Denver.

It was nice to have them protected while mounting so they didn't get all scratched up.
That's what I figured. And seeing the clean parts that were in my kit but fabricated in 2009 and then stored in OR before shipping them to me, that kind of helped with the decision.

Wing Jig Ready

With the tail put away, I designed and built this wing jig. For those of you who have the pre-punched kits, you won't need something this rigid, but the RV-3B requires something stiff upon which to support the wing's frame during construction.

As of today, the jig is trued and Bondoed to the garage floor. It awaits the angle brackets which actually support the spars. In the meantime I've started the rear spar. Thus, the game continues.

I had to use a wide angle setting to take the photo. In reality the legs are actually vertical and parallel to each other.


Almost forgot to mention that the reason for the four legs is to build both wings together. But you probably figured that out....

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Rear Spars

As I mentioned, I'm trying to build the wings together. Started with the assembly of the rear spars per the manual. This shows the root ends of them. I've left the holes pilot-drilled for the ribs but went ahead and riveted the other holes.

Incidentally, remember that this is an RV-3B. None of the parts shown here came pre-drilled or shaped, except that the rear spar itself arrives bent and one inch too long.

This was the first time I've riveted the long AN470AD4-11 rivets in the fork portion. They went okay with the pneumatic squeezer but that's about the minimum length that will work there, at least when using primer on those parts. The plans call for -10. Probably a -11.5 would be ideal, and I didn't try a -12.

The doublers at the aileron pushrod and tip are riveted too, using shorter rivets, but you'll have to use your imagination to see them - no photos today for that (mostly because they aren't very interesting).


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Those are some big rivets! How many times did you measure the spar to make sure you were supposed to cut it? I bet it took some convincing to make that cut! I have a 2x and 3x gun you can borrow if you need one. Looking good Dave.
Rocky, I measured that cut about four times each spar, using two different measuring tools each. I figure I got it within half an inch or so. ;) Maybe even closer.

I understand that the extra inch is for attaching to the jig for the QB wings. I wanted to use it for my jig too, but it conflicts with the aileron hinge attachment later on. And at that point trimming it is more difficult because of the tip rib. I gave some thought to stretching the wing an inch but there were too many negative issues associated with that. That notion was easy to abandon.

I've got a decent 3X gun, but thanks. Didn't use it for these. The squeezer did fine at about 95 psi. They weren't really that hard to set.

Ribs and Small Things

I've been working on small things:

Rib lightening holes cut, using the Malco HC-1 hole cutter. The photo shows the first practice cut, in a scrap seat rib. This tool is wonderful for cutting holes in aluminum. Easy and safe. What it doesn't do is cut a smooth cut, at least with the Sioux palm drill I was using. But a moment with a drum sander and that's done.


In the RV-3B standard build wings, there are a number of lightening holes to cut on just the ribs. There are also the usual various holes in the tank ribs too, generally much smaller, so a stepped bit was used for those.

Flanges had been previously squared.

Flanges marked for rivets and fluted in between them. No drilling here until I'm ready for the skins.

The tie-down fitting and it's aileron bellcrank mounting holes were all made and drilled. These were the first holes through the spar. These parts are now drying from the priming, and still need assembly.

The Duckworks landing light kit is on hand now. I bought two, so that I could install one on each wing. But after thinking it over, I think I'll just install one of them. After all, this will be a day VFR airplane, and that's sufficient for the rare time I'll be flying at night. I've still got to make the hole for the actual landing light. That'll wait till I have it because its installation directions don't include a pattern for cutting it out.

For this and the items below, some thought and figuring and head-scratching was required for each one of them.

I've got the "kit" for the pitot tube, which will be a scratch-built affair, somewhat cleaner and lighter than some of the ones we see. It needs to be built.

The stall warner is here too. It's a standard Van's kit and is designed for the -7, -8 and -9. It's very clearly NOT designed for the -3 or even the -3B, which I have. Some engineering is needed but not much. Good thing I'm an engineer. Now probably some of you will much prefer a full AOA system, and you might be right. I've never flown one. But this is a single-point AOA that warns when near the stall - that's all it does. My Cessna 180 has a similar one and it's great. I'll be comfortable with this thing, and safe. I hope.

The autopilot roll servo mount hasn't been ordered yet. I'm still undecided whether to install it in the fuselage, looks like it'll fit, or the right wing.

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I drilled the joints between the rear spar and the aft flanges of the main ribs today. This follows drilling the aft flange of the ribs earlier. I used a 12” #40 drill to back-drill through the rib flanges. It mostly went okay. It was more difficult where I had the mid-span or outer doublers, because the spar was .080 thick there.


The thing showing progress are the clecos atop the rear spars.

I'm using the main spars as (expensive) fixtures. And for reference, that table is 7' long by 3' wide, to give you an idea of the scale of things.

Previously, I'd mentioned that I needed to build the pitot tube. I wanted to get its mounting out of the way before attaching the ribs to anything. Here's the pitot tube - http://www.vansairforce.com/community/showthread.php?t=99034

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